North Carolina’s Race for Governor: Expensive, Closely Watched and Probably Tight

One of the country’s most closely watched elections this year will be in North Carolina, where the race for governor will be a test of Democratic strength in a state whose narrowly divided electorate includes a crush of newcomers.

After the primaries on Tuesday, North Carolinians will likely have two sharply contrasting candidates to choose from: the mild-mannered state attorney general, Josh Stein, a Democrat whose political rise has followed a traditional path, and Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, a firebrand Republican who catapulted into politics after comments he made defending gun rights in 2018 went viral.

“If you went to a candidate factory and said, ‘Create me the two most different candidates possible,’ I don’t think you could do any better,” said Christopher A. Cooper, a political science professor at Western Carolina University. “They’re just radically different in demeanor, in ideology.”

Both men would break ground if elected: Mr. Robinson, 55, would be the first Black governor of North Carolina if elected, while Mr. Stein, 57, would be the state’s first Jewish governor.

The race will be closely watched in part because of the potential national implications: Both candidates are planning to portray each other in politically extreme terms, which could boost turnout not only for their elections, but also for the presidential race in the hotly contested state.

Mr. Stein, like the current term-limited Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, has tried to avoid culture war issues. Mr. Robinson appears eager to dive into many of them, disparaging L.G.B.T.Q. people, posting comments that were widely perceived as antisemitic and calling Michelle Obama a man. He has also quoted Adolf Hitler on Facebook and embraced former President Donald J. Trump’s false claims about election fraud in 2020.

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